NSW Premier orders review in termination payments after police media chief furore

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NSW Premier Chris Minns has announced a review into redundancy provisions for senior public servants after it was revealed taxpayers had coughed up nearly $700,000 for the termination payouts of senior media advisers working for the state’s top cop.

The combined $687,000 was given to three high-paid senior media advisers to NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb after she was given the job in February 2022.

On Tuesday, Mr Minns said the government would review the Government Sector Employment Act, which determines separation payments, and he was “concerned with the amount of money that’s going out the door at the moment”.

“It’s public money, it’s taxpayer money, and I can understand community concern about those separation payments,” he said.

“As a result of that I can announce that the government’s conducting a review of the GSE Act, particularly in relation to separation payments to senior public servants.”

He confirmed this would not apply to public sector workers like police officers, teachers and nurses and said the review was “appropriate and necessary”.

He also said the results of the review would be made public upon its completion.

“These are large amounts of money that have been obviously handed to senior executives for not doing a job,” he said.

“That’s not a knock on any agency head there, they’re obviously got to pick the team that they think can do the job and they’re limited by the regulations that are set in place by the government.”

Ms Webb is now looking to hire what will be her fifth media boss after she cancelled the appointment of former Channel 7 and NewsCorp journalist Steve Jackson.

Jackson was hired after former NewsCorp journalist Liz Deegan was dismissed over criticisms of Ms Webb’s media comments after the alleged murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies by a NSW police officer.

However, Jackson’s appointment prompted a flurry of media reports citing the ex-Spotlight producer’s colourful past, including his role as a producer on Spotlight’s controversial interview with Bruce Lehrmann.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Jackson.

In a statement to media, a NSW Police spokesperson said the force had “ceased the temporary appointment for the role of the executive director, public affairs branch”.

“To best serve the interests of the NSW Police and community, the executive director, public affairs branch needs to be able to fulfil the duties of the role free from external distractions and ongoing media attention,” the statement read.

On Sunday, Mr Minns backed Ms Webb’s decision not to appoint Jackson as her media director, a decision she reneged on after 10 days.

Asked if it was a “mistake for the (Police Minister) Yasmin Catley and her office to get involved in such an appointment for the police commissioner”, Mr Minns watered down the claims.

“I wouldn’t label it as that,” he said.

“Obviously, when it comes to media directors and government departments, there’s a conversation that takes place.”

Last month, it emerged Ms Catley’s chief of staff had recommended Jackson for the high-paying role.

Doubling down, Mr Minns said it was the “right call” to cancel Jackson’s employment.

“When ministers work with directors of government agencies, there’s obviously a discussion that takes place, but I want to make it clear, these decisions are for agency heads and they’ve made the decision to not go ahead with that appointment,” he said.